Computer art

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Computer art is any art in which computers play a role in production or display of the artwork. Such art can be an image, sound, animation, video, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, video game, website, algorithm, performance or gallery installation. Many traditional disciplines are now integrating digital technologies and, as a result, the lines between traditional works of art and new media works created using computers has been blurred. For instance, an artist may combine traditional painting with algorithm art and other digital techniques. As a result, defining computer art by its end product can thus be difficult. Computer art is bound to change over time since changes in technology and software directly affect what is possible.

Art Creative work to evoke emotional response

Art is a diverse range of human activities in creating visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), expressing the author's imaginative, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power. Other activities related to the production of works of art include the criticism of art, the study of the history of art, and the aesthetic dissemination of art.

A computer is a machine that can be instructed to carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations automatically via computer programming. Modern computers have the ability to follow generalized sets of operations, called programs. These programs enable computers to perform an extremely wide range of tasks. A "complete" computer including the hardware, the operating system, and peripheral equipment required and used for "full" operation can be referred to as a computer system. This term may as well be used for a group of computers that are connected and work together, in particular a computer network or computer cluster.

Video electronic medium for the recording, copying and broadcasting of moving visual images

Video is an electronic medium for the recording, copying, playback, broadcasting, and display of moving visual media. Video was first developed for mechanical television systems, which were quickly replaced by cathode ray tube (CRT) systems which were later replaced by flat panel displays of several types.


The term "computer art"

On the title page of the magazine Computers and Automation, January 1963, Edmund Berkeley published a picture by Efraim Arazi from 1962, coining for it the term "computer art." This picture inspired him to initiate the first Computer Art Contest in 1963. The annual contest was a key point in the development of computer art up to the year 1973. [1] [2]


Desmond Paul Henry, Picture by Drawing Machine 1, c. 1960 Wiki.picture by drawing machine 1.jpg
Desmond Paul Henry, Picture by Drawing Machine 1, c. 1960

The precursor of computer art dates back to 1956–1958, with the generation of what is probably the first image of a human being on a computer screen, a (George Petty-inspired) [3] pin-up girl at a SAGE air defense installation. [4] Desmond Paul Henry invented the Henry Drawing Machine in 1960; his work was shown at the Reid Gallery in London in 1962, after his machine-generated art won him the privilege of a one-man exhibition. [5] [6]

George Petty American artist

George Brown Petty IV was an American pin-up artist. His pin-up art appeared primarily in Esquire and Fawcett Publications's True but was also in calendars marketed by Esquire, True and Ridgid Tool Company. Petty's Esquire gatefolds originated and popularized the magazine device of centerfold spreads. Reproductions of his work, known as "Petty Girls," were widely rendered by military artists as nose art decorating warplanes during the Second World War, including the Memphis Belle.

Semi-Automatic Ground Environment historic computer network

The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) was a system of large computers and associated networking equipment that coordinated data from many radar sites and processed it to produce a single unified image of the airspace over a wide area. SAGE directed and controlled the NORAD response to a Soviet air attack, operating in this role from the late 1950s into the 1980s. Its enormous computers and huge displays remain a part of cold war lore, and a common prop in movies such as Dr. Strangelove and Colossus.

Desmond Paul Henry British philosopher

Desmond Paul Henry (1921–2004) was a Manchester University Lecturer and Reader in Philosophy (1949–82). He was one of the first British artists to experiment with machine-generated visual effects at the time of the emerging global computer art movement of the 1960s. During this period, Henry constructed a succession of three drawing machines from modified bombsight analogue computers which were employed in World War II bombers to calculate the accurate release of bombs onto their targets. Henry's machine-generated effects resemble complex versions of the abstract, curvilinear graphics which accompany Microsoft's Windows Media Player. Henry's machine-generated effects may therefore also be said to represent early examples of computer graphics: "the making of line drawings with the aid of computers and drawing machines".

By the mid-1960s, most individuals involved in the creation of computer art were in fact engineers and scientists because they had access to the only computing resources available at university scientific research labs. Many artists tentatively began to explore the emerging computing technology for use as a creative tool. In the summer of 1962, A. Michael Noll programmed a digital computer at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey to generate visual patterns solely for artistic purposes . [7] His later computer-generated patterns simulated paintings by Piet Mondrian and Bridget Riley and became classics. [8] Noll also used the patterns to investigate aesthetic preferences in the mid-1960s.

A. Michael Noll is an American engineer, and professor emeritus at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. He served as dean of the Annenberg School from 1992 to 1994. He was a very early pioneer in digital computer art and 3D animation and tactile communication.

Piet Mondrian Dutch painter

Pieter Cornelis Mondriaan, after 1906 Piet Mondrian, was a Dutch painter and theoretician who is regarded as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. He is known for being one of the pioneers of 20th century abstract art, as he changed his artistic direction from figurative painting to an increasingly abstract style, until he reached a point where his artistic vocabulary was reduced to simple geometric elements.

Bridget Riley British painter

Bridget Louise Riley is an English painter well-known for Op art. She lives and works in London, Cornwall and the Vaucluse in France.

The two early exhibitions of computer art were held in 1965: Generative Computergrafik, February 1965, at the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, Germany, and Computer-Generated Pictures, April 1965, at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York. The Stuttgart exhibit featured work by Georg Nees; the New York exhibit featured works by Bela Julesz and A. Michael Noll and was reviewed as art by The New York Times. [9] A third exhibition was put up in November 1965 at Galerie Wendelin Niedlich in Stuttgart, Germany, showing works by Frieder Nake and Georg Nees. Analogue computer art by Maughan Mason along with digital computer art by Noll were exhibited at the AFIPS Fall Joint Computer Conference in Las Vegas toward the end of 1965.

Georg Nees German artist

Georg Nees was a German academic who was a pioneer of computer art and generative graphics. He studied mathematics, physics and philosophy in Erlangen and Stuttgart and was scientific advisor at the SEMIOSIS, International Journal of semiotics and aesthetics. In 1977, he was appointed Honorary Professor of Applied computer science at the University of Erlangen Nees is one of the "3N" computer pioneers, an abbreviation that has become acknowledged for Frieder Nake, Georg Nees and A. Michael Noll, whose computer graphics were created with digital computers.

Frieder Nake German mathematician and computer scientist

Frieder Nake is a mathematician, computer scientist, and pioneer of computer art. He is best known internationally for his contributions to the earliest manifestations of computer art, a field of computing that made its first public appearances with three small exhibitions in 1965.

In 1968, the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London hosted one of the most influential early exhibitions of computer art called Cybernetic Serendipity. The exhibition included many of whom often regarded as the first digital artists, Nam June Paik, Frieder Nake, Leslie Mezei, Georg Nees, A. Michael Noll, John Whitney, and Charles Csuri. [10] One year later, the Computer Arts Society was founded, also in London. [11]

Institute of Contemporary Arts art centre in London

The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) is an artistic and cultural centre on The Mall in London, just off Trafalgar Square. Located within Nash House, part of Carlton House Terrace, near the Duke of York Steps and Admiralty Arch, the ICA contains galleries, a theatre, two cinemas, a bookshop and a bar. Stefan Kalmár became its director in 2016.

Cybernetic Serendipity was an exhibition of cybernetic art curated by Jasia Reichardt, shown at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, England, in 1968, and then touring the United States. Two stops in the United States were the Corcoran Annex, Washington, D.C., and the newly opened Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Nam June Paik American video art pioneer

Nam June Paik was a Korean American artist. He worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the founder of video art. He is credited with an early usage (1974) of the term "electronic super highway" in application to telecommunications.

At the time of the opening of Cybernetic Serendipity, in August 1968, a symposium was held in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, under the title "Computers and visual research". [12] It took up the European artists movement of New Tendencies that had led to three exhibitions (in 1961, 63, and 65) in Zagreb of concrete, kinetic, and constructive art as well as op art and conceptual art. New Tendencies changed its name to "Tendencies" and continued with more symposia, exhibitions, a competition, and an international journal (bit international) until 1973.

Katherine Nash and Richard Williams published Computer Program for Artists: ART 1 in 1970. [13]

Xerox Corporation’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) designed the first Graphical User Interface (GUI) in the 1970s. The first Macintosh computer is released in 1984, since then the GUI became popular. Many graphic designers quickly accepted its capacity as a creative tool.

Andy Warhol created digital art using a Commodore Amiga where the computer was publicly introduced at the Lincoln Center, New York in July 1985. An image of Debbie Harry was captured in monochrome from a video camera and digitized into a graphics program called ProPaint. Warhol manipulated the image adding colour by using flood fills. [14] [15]

Output devices

Formerly, technology restricted output and print results: early machines used pen-and-ink plotters to produce basic hard copy.

In the early 1960s, the Stromberg Carlson SC-4020 microfilm printer was used at Bell Telephone Laboratories as a plotter to produce digital computer art and animation on 35-mm microfilm. Still images were drawn on the face plate of the cathode ray tube and automatically photographed. A series of still images were drawn to create a computer-animated movie, early on a roll of 35-mm film and then on 16-mm film as a 16-mm camera was later added to the SC-4020 printer.

In the 1970s, the dot matrix printer (which was much like a typewriter) was used to reproduce varied fonts and arbitrary graphics. The first animations were created by plotting all still frames sequentially on a stack of paper, with motion transfer to 16-mm film for projection. During the 1970s and 1980s, dot matrix printers were used to produce most visual output while microfilm plotters were used for most early animation. [8]

In 1976, the inkjet printer was invented with the increase in use of personal computers. The inkjet printer is now the cheapest and most versatile option for everyday digital color output. Raster Image Processing (RIP) is typically built into the printer or supplied as a software package for the computer; it is required to achieve the highest quality output. Basic inkjet devices do not feature RIP. Instead, they rely on graphic software to rasterize images. The laser printer, though more expensive than the inkjet, is another affordable output device available today. [10]

Graphic software

Adobe Systems, founded in 1982, developed the PostScript language and digital fonts, making drawing painting and image manipulation software popular. Adobe Illustrator, a vector drawing program based on the Bézier curve introduced in 1987 and Adobe Photoshop, written by brothers Thomas and John Knoll in 1990 were developed for use on MacIntosh computers, [16] and compiled for DOS/Windows platforms by 1993.

A robotic brush head painting on a canvas Zanellehead.jpg
A robotic brush head painting on a canvas

Robot painting

A robot painting is an artwork painted by a robot. It differs from other forms of printing that uses machinery such as offset printing and inkjet printing, in that the artwork is made up of actual brush strokes and artist grade paints. Many robot paintings are indistinguishable from artist created paintings.

One of the first robot painters was AARON, an artificial intelligence/artist developed by Professor Harold Cohen, UCSD, in the mid-1970s. Another pioneer in the field, Ken Goldberg of UC Berkeley created an 11' x 11' painting machine in 1992. Multiple other robotic painters exist though none are currently mass-produced.

Neural style transfer

A photo of Jimmy Wales rendered in the style of The Scream using neural style transfer Jimmy Wales in France, with the style of Munch's "The Scream" applied using neural style transfer.jpg
A photo of Jimmy Wales rendered in the style of The Scream using neural style transfer

Non-photorealistic rendering (using computers to automatically transform images into stylized art) has been a subject of research since the 1990s. Around 2015, neural style transfer using convolutional neural networks to transfer the style of an artwork onto a photograph or other target image became feasible. [17] One method of style transfer involves using a framework such as VGG or ResNet to break the artwork style down into statistics about visual features. The target photograph is subsequently modified to match those statistics. [18] Notable applications include Prisma, [19] Facebook Caffe2Go style transfer, [20] MIT's Nightmare Machine, [21] and DeepArt. [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

Fractal art

Fractal art is a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still images, animations, and media. Fractal art developed from the mid-1980s onwards. It is a genre of computer art and digital art which are part of new media art. The mathematical beauty of fractals lies at the intersection of generative art and computer art. They combine to produce a type of abstract art.

Digital art Collective term for art that is generated digitally with the computer

Digital art is an artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process. Since the 1970s, various names have been used to describe the process, including computer art and multimedia art. Digital art is itself placed under the larger umbrella term new media art.

Generative art art genre

Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist. In some cases the human creator may claim that the generative system represents their own artistic idea, and in others that the system takes on the role of the creator.

Electronic art art that uses or refers to electronic media

Electronic art is a form of art that makes use of electronic media. More broadly, it refers to technology and/or electronic media. It is related to information art, new media art, video art, digital art, interactive art, internet art, and electronic music. It is considered an outgrowth of conceptual art and systems art.

Information art, which is also known as informatism or data art, is emerging artforms that are inspired by and principally incorporate data, computer science, information technology, artificial intelligence, and related data-driven fields. The information revolution has resulted in over-abundant data that are critical in a wide range of areas, from the Internet to healthcare systems. Related to conceptual art, electronic art and new media art, informatism considers this new technological, economical, and cultural paradigm shift, such that artworks may provide social commentaries, synthesize multiple disciplines, and develop new aesthetics. Realization of information art often take, although not necessarily, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches incorporating visual, audio, data analysis, performance, and others. Furthermore, physical and virtual installations involving informatism often provide human-computer interaction that generate artistic contents based on the processing of large amounts of data.

Giclée Fine art ink jet prints produced from digital files or artwork.

Giclée is a neologism coined in 1991 by printmaker Jack Duganne for fine art digital prints made on inkjet printers. The name originally applied to fine art prints created on a modified Iris printer in a process invented in the late 1980s. It has since been used loosely to mean any fine-art, most of the times archival, printed by inkjet. It is often used by artists, galleries, and print shops to suggest high quality printing, but since it is an unregulated word it has no associated warranty of quality.

Digital printing method of printing

Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods, but this price is usually offset by avoiding the cost of all the technical steps required to make printing plates. It also allows for on-demand printing, short turnaround time, and even a modification of the image used for each impression. The savings in labor and the ever-increasing capability of digital presses means that digital printing is reaching the point where it can match or supersede offset printing technology's ability to produce larger print runs of several thousand sheets at a low price.

Lillian F. Schwartz is a 20th-century American artist considered a pioneer of computer-mediated art and one of the first artists notable for basing almost her entire oeuvre on computational media. Many of her ground-breaking projects were done in the 1960s and 1970s, well before the desktop computer revolution made computer hardware and software widely available to artists.

An Iris printer is a large-format color inkjet printer introduced in 1985 by Iris Graphics, originally of Stoneham, Massachusetts and currently manufactured by the Graphic Communications Group of Eastman Kodak, designed for prepress proofing. It is also used in the fine art reproduction market as a final output digital printing press, as in Giclée.

Image scaling

In computer graphics and digital imaging, imagescaling refers to the resizing of a digital image. In video technology, the magnification of digital material is known as upscaling or resolution enhancement.

Algorithmic art art genre

Algorithmic art, also known as algorithm art, is art, mostly visual art, of which the design is generated by an algorithm. Algorithmic artists are sometimes called algorists.

The Computer Arts Society (CAS) was founded in 1968, in order to encourage the creative use of computers in the arts.

Systems art

Systems art is art influenced by cybernetics, and systems theory, that reflects on natural systems, social systems and social signs of the art world itself.

Computational creativity is a multidisciplinary endeavour that is located at the intersection of the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, philosophy, and the arts.

Pascal Dombis French artist

Pascal Dombis is a digital artist who uses computers and algorithms to produce excessive repetition of simple processes.

Roman Verostko is an American artist and educator who creates code-generated imagery, known as algorithmic art. Verostko developed his own software for generating original art based on form ideas he had developed as an artist in the 1960s. His software controls the drawing arm of a machine known as a pen plotter that was designed primarily for engineering and architectural drawing. In coding his software Verostko conceives of the machine's drawing arm as an extension or prosthesis for his own drawing arm. The plotter normally draws with ink pens but Verostko adapted oriental brushes to fit the drawing arm and wrote interactive routines for achieving brush strokes with his plotters. In 1995, he co-founded the Algorists with Jean-Pierre Hébert.

New media art type of art that uses media technology

New media art refers to artworks created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, video games, computer robotics, 3D printing, cyborg art and art as biotechnology. The term differentiates itself by its resulting cultural objects and social events, which can be seen in opposition to those deriving from old visual arts. This concern with medium is a key feature of much contemporary art and indeed many art schools and major universities now offer majors in "New Genres" or "New Media" and a growing number of graduate programs have emerged internationally. New media art often involves interaction between artist and observer or between observers and the artwork, which responds to them. Yet, as several theorists and curators have noted, such forms of interaction, social exchange, participation, and transformation do not distinguish new media art but rather serve as a common ground that has parallels in other strands of contemporary art practice. Such insights emphasize the forms of cultural practice that arise concurrently with emerging technological platforms, and question the focus on technological media, per se.


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  18. Jing, Y., Yang, Y., Feng, Z., Ye, J., & Song, M. (2017). Neural style transfer: A review. arXiv preprint arXiv:1705.04058.
  19. Levin, Sam (14 July 2016). "Why everyone is crazy for Prisma, the app that turns photos into works of art". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  20. "Facebook's tech boss on how AI will transform how we interact". New Scientist. 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
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Further reading